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Kiss Perfectionism Good-bye

I used to think that my goal in life was to be perfect, in every way. How exhausting and what an impossible task! No wonder I had stomach problems as a teenager. I must have been churning out all kinds of unhealthy acid with my worries and anxieties.

I don't talk about this often (probably because it totally blows up any illusion of my being perfect, LOL), but I was assaulted by anxiety off and on for much of my life. Fortunately, I'm in a good space with it now and have been for more than twenty years, but my 30's were some of the most uncomfortable years I've ever had. My life got smaller and smaller as I became a victim to my panic attacks. In an attempt to regulate them, I put many boundaries around my every day living. At times I couldn't even ride in a car unless I was driving. Obviously, it had a lot to do with control issues!

It also had to do with wanting to be perfect and feeling like I was failing miserably. I would go back and forth between wanting to be fully in charge or letting go all together and just watching chaos take over. I couldn't seem to grasp the concept of balance or somewhere in the middle or "what's the best I can do". I got caught up in all or nothing thinking.

It pains me to confess that being married/trying to be in relationship and having my

beautiful, wonderful children triggered my feeling out-of-control and all my fears of being incredibly imperfect. Consequently, I wavered between anger and micro-management in one extreme, and a totally laissez-faire attitude on the other.

My healing started with a connection with my inner Divine. I knew that most organized religions felt just a little too "man-made", however I also craved a spiritual bond. Meditation, prayer, and finding groups of like-minded people was my first, big step. Letting myself be more vulnerable, something I still struggle with at times, also opened up the doors to my path toward well-being. A very wise therapist asked me once, "Who is your support system?". I had no answer at the time because I thought I was supposed to be perfect and not need anyone. Realizing I had no immediate response flooded me with sadness and an awareness that I wasn't letting people in. Since then I have made it my mission to find friends and be a friend, wherever I go.

Monday's Pleasure Peek is one of my truisms.

"Perfectionism is a tough mistress." BLC

She is demanding and unrelenting and she doesn't allow for some of my best qualities: softness, gentle strength, a sense of humor, and compassion (especially toward myself).

It's time to realize that being perfect doesn't serve anyone. It sets up an impossible standard for ourselves and implies that others should follow suit. This is a call to embrace your adorable, scared, curious, imperfect self. It reminds me of a line from a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese" ...

"... You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves ..."

This is what I wish for you.

"Wild Geese"

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Mary Oliver


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

the Mindful Maven and Mistress of Meditation, is a sassy Queen-ager, mentor, confidante and trusted guide who provides people with everyday life support. 

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